Panorama of a Safari Park field exhibit with giraffes, water buffalo, and rhinos

African Plains

Ostrich

The ostrich is the largest and heaviest living bird. A flightless bird that can never take to the skies, it’s built for running. Its long, thick, and powerful legs can cover great distances without much effort. Ostrich feet have just two toes for greater speed. When threatened, an ostrich runs away or defends itself with a forceful kick.

African Rhinos

Black rhinos and white rhinos are the same color—a brownish gray! Both live in eastern and southern Africa but eat different foods. The wide mouth of the white rhino is perfect for grazing on grasses. The more narrow, prehensile lip of the black rhino is great for pulling leaves and shrubs into its mouth. Other names used for these two species are broad-lipped and hook-lipped. Guess which name belongs to which rhino!

Somali Wild Ass

Wild members of the horse family (horses, zebras, and wild asses) have long held a strong fascination for humans. The Somali wild ass is the only ass with striped legs. Its small, narrow hooves help it move through its stony habitat. This surefooted design led to the domestication of Somali wild asses by the Egyptians more than 6,000 years ago!

Nile Lechwe

Most people have never heard of Nile lechwe (pronounced LETCH-way or LEECH-wee). They are antelope native to the floodplains of the Nile River Valley. Their long, slender hooves help them walk or run through their swampy, muddy home. While these long hooves are handy for moving through the water, on dry land Nile lechwe tend to look clumsy. Male Nile lechwe go to the water to fight, often submerging their locked heads.

Antelope

All antelope species have horns. In some species they are only found on the males; in others, both males and females have them. Horns stay attached, unlike a deer’s antlers that shed each year. Some antelope horns twist in interesting spirals; others are ridged. Still others grow in wide curves with a sharp point on the end.

The Safari Park opened to the public in 1972, but we started moving animals into our field enclosures two years earlier. Among the Park’s first residents were sable antelope and gemsbok.

Ruppell’s Vulture

Let’s face it—vultures have one of the worst reputations in the Animal Kingdom just by doing what comes naturally. Yet they are doing the world a favor by handling carrion cleanup duty. It’s a dirty job—and luckily, vultures are willing and able to do it!

The Ruppell’s vulture is the highest-flying bird. Reportedly, a jet flying over the Ivory Coast at an altitude of 35,433 feet (10,800 meters) hit one! The Ruppell's vulture gets on the wing about two hours after sunrise and spends its entire day aloft.

Heron

Herons catch live prey, especially in the water. Their neck has an elongated sixth vertebra, forming a kinked “S” shape. This helps herons retract and extend their neck quickly. The long, straight bill is used as a harpoon to capture fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, small mammals, insects, mollusks, and crustaceans. Herons stand motionless, waiting for prey to come into striking distance.

Largest of the herons is the goliath heron, found throughout sub-Saharan Africa. It stands up to 4.6 feet (140 centimeters) and has a wingspan of up to 7.5 feet (230 centimeters).

Zebra

Zebras are Africa’s striped horses. Grevy’s zebras are the largest of the three zebra subspecies. They live in semi-arid grasslands in eastern Africa.

Giraffe

Giraffes are the tallest land animals, able to look into a second-story window without having to stand on tiptoes! It takes a lot of leaves to fuel such large animals. Giraffes may eat up to 75 pounds (34 kilograms) of food per day, nibbling on leaves from Africa’s acacia trees. These trees often have thorns that keep most animals from munching on them, but those thorns don't stop giraffes! They just use their long tongue to reach around the thorns.

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